animefringe march 2003 / reviews

The Devil Lady Vol.2: The Becoming
Format: bilingual DVD, 4 eps., 100 min.
Production: ADV / Go Nagai
Comments: Nothing beats a supernatural Ultraman-style heroine possessing considerable...endowments...and lesbian undercurrents.
Animefringe Reviews:
The Devil Lady Vol.2: The Becoming

Following my typical viewing pattern (that is, completely backwards), I purchased the first volume of Devil Lady (otherwise known as Devilman: Lady) not knowing anything about its predecessor, Devilman. Yet, when The Right Stuf was still in the midst of their crazy A.D. Vision sale binge, I couldn't resist the chance to snag it at only $16.29. After watching an entire season of Magical Project S (the Magical Girl Pretty Sammy series), this sort of violent, sexy, dark anime helps to balance out my manliness. It's hard to be a macho man when one is watching hours and hours of a show populated by young girls dressed in pink waving a magic wand about and consorting with pet/friend rabbit-cats. But when I'm watching a show featuring a well-endowed giant demon woman slugging it out with various cannibalistic Beasts, no one can claim I've gone soft.

We featured this title last month, but here's a brief summary of the scenario anyway. Fudou Jun was a rather successful, yet lonely fashion model working her way up through the industry, when she was confronted by Asuka Lan, a member of the clandestine Human Alliance. In one dark, brutal night, Lan shows Jun the truth, revealing facts not only about the world, but also about the nature of Jun herself. Mankind is undergoing a sudden evolutionary change. For good or for ill, a large percentage of the human population begins manifesting dominant traits of the Beast gene, a genetic feature bestowing upon its owner great powers. Unfortunately, it also tends to drive the transformed person insane with bloodlust for his or her fellow human beings, usually resulting in a brutal example of survival of the fittest.

Jun is a carrier of the Beast gene, but she differs from the majority of the Beasts. Unlike most, she retains her human psyche when she takes on her Bestial form and is able to revert to a human shape more-or-less at will. As a human able to confront the incredible offensive powers of the Beasts, Jun becomes a reluctant fighter for the fate of humanity as we know it. Yet, there is a question that continually nags her as she faces each of the monstrous creatures. Is humanity's new evolutionary leap truly evil -- a step in the wrong biological direction? If so, where does someone like her fit in?

Volume one collected the first five episodes of the series while volume two only contains four episodes. This isn't a bad way of progressing, because newcomers get a greater chance to see something they like, whereas people eager to grab the second volume have already proven that they want to see more. On the first disc, we're basically introduced to the characters and the primary conflict. The four episodes collected on this DVD present a somewhat changed persona for Jun. Slowly, it seems she is beginning to accept herself as a Devilman. For the first time, she speaks when transformed, and she is also starting to show more backbone when Asuka orders her around like a pet. Such behavior adds a nice level of complexity to a protagonist that could probably get by on her looks and her transformation's intimidation alone. It's nice to see such depth of character in what could easily degrade into a testosterone-driven action show for guys.

Only looking at the character designs however, it would be hard to convince a person that this is not just a testosterone-drive action show for guys. After all, there are some very attractive character designs in Devil Lady as well as a bevy of disgusting monsters for Jun to face. There's also some near-nudity (nothing more than showing a rear-end here and there) and some hints at sexual situations. This is certainly not a show for children, more for the bloody violence than the sexuality. It's the engaging plot that elevates this series to something more than just a showcase for large-breasted women.

The animation isn't the smoothest to grace the small screen, but it's solid enough for a television series. Fight scenes are well choreographed and there aren't too many still scenes. For the most part, the show stays in motion. Devil Lady is set primarily in the dark, yet it does a good job of being moody without being hard to see. The city Jun lives in is also a nice authentic contrast to the supernatural events that occur as the series progresses. It's usually foggy, and the writers give an interesting reason for the eerie weather phenomenon. Essentially, one of the reasons there's more fog than the city is used to is because of the bad economy. That is, people don't go out much at night any more (not only because of strange events, but because they cannot afford it) and so the streets cool off more than usual, allowing a temperature difference that wasn't present in more prosperous times. Thus, the battles between Devil Lady and the Beasts can occur with few witnesses since it's so hard to see at night. One can really tell that the current economic crisis that's affecting Japan now is serious - in modern anime, it's a theme almost as common as a cram school student trying to get into Tokyo University.

Voice acting for the dub is a mixed bag. The actresses in English manage to make the characters sound cute, an achievement rarely made in English. However there are frequent changes to the original script, and while I didn't notice anything major, this may upset purists. Of course, that's why DVDs are great - just listen to the Japanese track if you prefer the original. I actually did find the Japanese track particularly good, especially considering how quiet Jun is. She doesn't speak much, so when she does, it's important that what she conveys her thoughts well. The music is very good, with symphonic themes that are well placed throughout the show. All in all, it's used to good effect. Sound effects are also well done, whether it's the sound of footsteps echoing in the background or the roar of Devil Lady and a Beast impaling one another, everything is appropriately creepy.

This volume, like the first, is packaged in a very attractive clear keepcase, featuring a red cover with silver ink for the characters on the front. Kazumi gets to take center stage this time around, and the coloring effect does a great job of highlighting her eyes. This is a very attractive box. Like the first disc, there's no insert, but there are four cards featuring Beasts from the episodes. It's a nice addition, but there aren't many extras this time around. Aside from the cards, the features include a clean opening and ending and four pictures which make what has to be one of the smallest DVD galleries I've ever seen. The show's original trailers are also included, along with ADV's own previews.

The show is in English and Japanese Dolby Digital 2.0, and the sound comes across clearly in either track. While the menus are attractive and quick to load, they do possess one bothersome trait. Whenever a menu choice is selected with the arrow buttons, an icon appears over the choice. However, it then becomes impossible to read what item has been selected. Thus, you have to move the icon out of the way to make sure you're selecting what you actually want. I like the style of the menu system, but I'd really prefer to see what I'm selecting rather than a stylistic puddle of blood over everything. Other than that, the menu is great.

As I mentioned before, this is a good show and a nice change of pace from what I've been watching lately. It's violent and sexy without being insultingly gratuitous. My only regret is the knowledge that one day, it will be released in a cheaper "special collector's edition" box set. Sure, it hasn't been announced, but it always happens when I get into a show early. However, I'd have to say I believe it's worth it.